RAVE: ‘Pictures on Silence’ – Atu

Atu - Pictures on Silence - cover

I love kissing. If I could kiss all day, I would. I can’t stop thinking about kissing. I like kissing more than sex because there’s no end to it. You can kiss forever. You can kiss yourself into oblivion. You can kiss all over the body. You can kiss yourself to sleep. And when you wake up, you can’t stop thinking about kissing. Dammit, I can’t get anything done because I’m so busy thinking about kissing. Kissing is madness! But it’s absolute paradise, if you can find a good kisser.

– Sufjan Stevens

RAVE: ‘Cherry Bomb’ – Tyler, The Creator


First impressions: abrasive, sonically generous, and – wait for it – sweet. On the (shallow) surface, it’s industrial – typical Tyler anarchy reminiscent of Goblin (2011). But all the brash production, hard-hitting verses, and maniacal visuals (save maybe for “She,” which features Frank Ocean) that came with the Odd Future ringleader’s debut are still there, but in traces. If anything, Cherry Bomb sounded like the consummation of his past works, Wolf (2013) included. His sophomore album was a transition, and forgive me for this analogy, but it’s like Wolverine in the process of adamantium bonding into his body. If there’s a personification of the idiom, “Don’t let your mouth write checks your ass can’t cash,” then Tyler embodies it fully.

To be honest, I’m typing this as I listen to the album and will listen to it again with my undivided attention. But phrases and thoughts kept popping out of my mind that I had to write them down. One moment, you’ll hear serrated Death Grips noise, the next, it’s jazz, slow-dancing music. Tyler was not kidding when he mentioned his influences while working on this album, and it’s hard not to miss those embedded sound, with assistance from Chaz Bundick (Toro Y Moi/Les Sins), Charlie Wilson, and Cole Alexander (The Black Lips).

I’ve noticed that most tracks are like miniature collages of sound, shifting slightly or drastically in mood. Most of the first halves begin heavy and then wind down to smooth, The Internet-esque vibe. This kind of exploration leads me to believe that this is Tyler, The Creator’s finest record so far. I cannot help but think the parallelism between Kendrick Lamar’s To Pimp A Butterfly and Tyler’s Cherry Bomb when it comes to the title. It conveys contrasts, a songwriting trick – I’ve learned (but also not uncommon when writing poetry – I have maybe abused this a couple of times). Like two sides to a coin, cherry and bomb are polar opposites when it comes to utility, not just in nature. I might be going out on a limb here, but I really don’t care. I’m ecstatic, I’m on fire.

And oh, did you catch that Drake sample on “2SEATER?”

See? Lots of things to enjoy in this album.

I’ve also streamed his 45-minute Coachella set earlier today. Worth your time, I’m telling you.

Cherry Bomb is now available on iTunes.

Abolition, Imaginary Smoke

Photo by Frank Micelotta/Getty Images

Photo by Frank Micelotta/Getty Images

Tomorrow is Kurt Cobain’s 21st death anniversary. I have unintentionally abstained from listening to Nirvana for quite a while, as an avalanche of new hiphop albums made its way to my music library and even then I haven’t exhausted everything. I find myself winding back to Nevermind (and skipping ‘Smells Like Teen Spirit’, as if I would be reprimanded by the ghost of Cobain for playing the song that propelled them to rock history, the song he loathed so much). I’d go straight to the last track, ‘Something In The Way’, the most subdued – lyrically and melodically – cut from the record. 

I am typing this right now in our patio, with a glass of Jack Daniels and Coke on the side of the table. I get up every now and then to replenish ice cubes from the freezer. It’s colder here than inside the house, which feels suffocating if it weren’t for the electric fans and A/C. It’s also awfully quiet, save for the muffled sound crickets make, the tinkling of the ice, and me tapping on my laptop’s keyboard. I just took a shower (the second time today), my hair still wrapped in a towel. I put an old, ratty T-shirt on that’s two layers thinner from whenever it was bought. 

I’ve been simultaneously reading a few pages of William S. Borroughs’ Junky (the title says it all) while revisiting some of my pharmacology and neurology notes to reacquaint myself with the physiologic and psychologic effects of heroin. It seems rather cosmic that I’ve found and bought this book right after I finished reading James Gavin’s Deep In A Dream: The Long Night of Chet Baker, a biography of the highly romanticized jazz icon, whose death (believed as suicide) inevitably followed his decades of self-abuse – his life and music fed by a hypodermic needle.

Right now, for the longest time since writing my thesis five years ago, I long for a cigarette. Just this one time. Despite the smoke, which I abhor, and the trace of nicotine that latches on my fingertips, I would not care right now. I suddenly miss the soft billowing of smoke that unapologetically lingers in the air, until it is no more. I have a vague memory of my fingers flirting with each cigarette until an entire pack is smoldered. 

A phrase suddenly sprung in my head: residual withdrawal syndrome. That sounds stupid. Or maybe phantom cigarette sensation or a retrograde oral fixation episode. Either way, I’ll just finish what volume of liquor I can.

I read that there’s a blood moon tonight. Eclipses don’t fascinate me as much, but the thought makes me smile. Not only do I like how this phenomenon sounds (like a potentially good band name), it’s just significantly apt for some of the bullshit that I want to completely block not just this evening, but for days to come. Until they obliterate by themselves. Right now, I’ll just continue listening to dead men’s music and mull over how they matter more than some living, breathing entities in my life. 

And maybe, I’ll go find a cigarette.

ALBUM REVIEW: ‘Assembly Generals’ – Assembly Generals


Barely a year ago, Assembly Generals rallied the crowd in Cubao X, the first witnesses to perhaps one of the most exciting, most charged acts of 2014 to look forward to: a four-piece electronic hiphop group that is no less punk than any top-billed rock band today. Exciting as it may be, seeing Raymund Marasigan on drums (for Cambio, Basement Lung, and Eraserheads), the man whose wide-ranging credentials almost always dismantles doubts on the quality of music an audience is about to expect, barely scratches the surface underneath. Adding more dimensions to the wholeness of the sound are Mon Punzalan, who’s responsible for manning the MPC, and Flying Ipis vocalist Deng Garcia on Ableton (APC40, to be exact) and vocals. As the only one who wrote lyrics for at least 10 songs after Marasigan and Punzalan sent their beats to a number of rappers, Paolo Toledo – who goes by the moniker “Switch” of local hiphop collective, Miscellaneous – was levied into the group.

The concept of Assembly Generals, according to Switch, is basically what their name suggests. The idea naturally reflected into their music, the camouflage jackets, the cap Switch himself sports during performances, the album design, and most symbolically – into their logo: a chevron insignia shaped into the group’s initials.

Assembly Generals is a self-aware album, an identity that is fully conscious and confident with itself and what it wants to put out there. Although the word ‘fresh’ in this context is relative, the group’s attempt to break out from what most of the local public’s archaic, automatic assumption of hiphop there is – battle rap; freestyle rapping lumped with trunk-heavy beats; thuggish, street-style gangsta rap (our local version would be the jeepney rap) – is daunting. Here, they succeeded into shelving that belief. Certainly, they are not the first one to do it. Most of the hiphop acts in the country belong to a crew, a collective, where putting out releases are done collaboratively in forms of mixtapes, which serve as a form of calling card. Interestingly though, Assembly Generals posits a different idea, which puts emphasis on an individual’s skill as much as it is with the overall result.

More than half of the eight-track record is comprised of high-octane cuts, combining crunk and suave technical merits (“General Assembly,” “Kontrabida”) and the direct, yet also stylish, lyrical rap sensibilities tackling social, touching into political, (“Kontrabida,” “Everyday Concept”) and personal (“Sakalawakan,” “In The Glass”) issues. Deng Garcia’s vocal assistance, whether to punctuate, emphasize, or swag things up, proves invaluable and adds dimension and variation to each song. Mon Punzalan and Raymund Marasigan balance each other, making sure the beats don’t end up robotic and the live drums not overpowering. Meanwhile, the veracity and straightforwardness of Switch’s verses do not come off as stiff and parochial, or even gaudy. In a genre where braggadocio only ultimately suggests Freudian slips, Assembly Generals has none. If there are, they are far too subtle to warrant attention. There’s crunchy wordplay, too, (i.e. UFO = “Unidentified Filipino Object,” “Leave the past in glass / I can’t keep swallowing the past.”) and the two Tagalog songs are poetic at best. Lyrically, the album proves that hiphop does not need to shout expletives or resort to misogyny to get its message across – loud and clear.

The group also enlisted the help of DRIP’s Beng Calma for “Neverland (All Gone)” and Pinoy Stories’ Camoi Miraflor for “Gravity Bound.” The former is spliced with scratches – courtesy of DJ Supreme Fist – and a thespian verse from Calma. The track is consummated with Switch’s assuaging lyrics, making it the most intimate cut from the record. “Gravity Bound,” on the other hand, is a crafty slowburner that opens with a Rey Valera sample colliding into a tantric trap looped throughout the song. The culmination of Assembly Generals is its closing track, “Fire In The Hole” – featuring Skarm, ILL-J, Dash, Tracer One, Godneeks, and Johnny Krush – a number reminiscent of ‘90s coastal rap, a mix of East and West coast swag that kids who grew up listening to LL Cool J, N.W.A, Wu-Tang Clan, Busta Rhymes, and 2Pac, among others, would certainly appreciate – a monumental nod to an era that brought the genre from the streets to mainstream consciousness.

Assembly Generals’ debut is a culmination of work that does not antagonize or parry with non-believers, or one where they tout themselves as messiahs of the local hiphop scene. That title is not one for them to brand for themselves. Not that there is no need for it, as their commendable first album already put them on top of the ranks.

RAVE: Favorite Videos of the Week

I know it’s been a while since I last posted my ‘Rave’ list. Work has caught up and I’ve had a janky body clock for weeks now, juggling gigs, writing, and work. But no complaints there. Not music-related: life’s been pretty good. Relationships are steady. Still have some loose ends though,still awkward with, well, him. Summer is here, but I’m still not acclimated to the humidity outdoors, the tempered coolness at home, and the perennially frigid temperature in the office. So I still get colds and headaches every now and then.

Anyway, try as I might, I’m sure rounding up my favorite tracks for the last couple of weeks is futile. There are plenty of them. So I just decided to list down my favorite videos of recent.

REVIEW: ‘Vital Transformation’ – LUSTBASS


Photo from Amplify.ph

Allan Malabanan’s work as LUSTBASS has laid down the framework for all things surreptitiously sensual. He recently gifted us with his latest instrumental joint, “Vital Transformation,” which will soon feature vocals, according to his Facebook page. It opens indulgently with a horn section, nonetheless, and skims off with skittish beats, lumped with textured synths and fretting claps – this guy sure knows how to build up. It picks up the tempo, accentuated with a risqué electronic guitar riff a la Dev Hynes. For someone who has already given us the adequately titled ‘XXX’ last year, LUSTBASS stretches the foreplay game a little more with this soaked-up ditty.